What’s parched and brown and next to a river?

Dead grass and rocky terrain are scattered along the Lewiston Levee Parkway Trail as a bicyclist makes his way along the path Friday afternoon in Lewiston.

Golden brown and crispy may be a good look for deep-fried food, but it probably isn’t suitable for one of Lewiston’s most scenic pathways.

The network of pumps, sprinklers and electronic controls that operate the Lewiston Levee Parkway irrigation system broke down recently, according to Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Manager Jason Achziger. But even though repairs took longer than expected, they were completed just in time for the mini heatwave that settled into the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley over the weekend.

Achziger said past experience is giving him hope that the long stretches of parched grass along sections of the parkway will be able to green up now that they’re getting water. The Corps faced a similar situation when one pump died completely a few years ago.

“It was probably a little bit worse, in terms of getting brown,” he said of that incident. “But (the grass) did come back, and we were pretty fortunate. Hopefully this works out OK.”

The Corps developed the parkway with trails, parks, trees, grass and other amenities during a beautification project that began in the mid-1970s after the completion of Lower Granite Dam and the levee system along the banks of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Much of the irrigation equipment installed during those years is still being used today.

Regular maintenance has kept the system running for more than four decades, Achziger said. For instance, the pump that irrigates much of the Idaho levee along the Snake River has been rebuilt several times. Control system issues have also caused headaches, but the latest repairs upgraded many of those components to comply with current building codes.

“So the plus side is that this time we were able to fix and upgrade that electrical stuff,” he said. “I think it’s going to end up simplifying the operation a little bit.”

The updated system should also be easier to operate, Achziger added.

The grass and section of the levee at Kiwanis Park on Snake River Avenue has stayed green all summer since the park is operated by the city of Lewiston Department of Parks and Recreation. Director Tim Barker said all of the parks owned or operated by the city are irrigated and the issues with the Corps system didn’t affect the city.

A subcontractor for the Corps successfully performed operating tests on the repaired and upgraded levee irrigation system last week. Achziger noted that the relatively cool summer weather that has prevailed until now was a lucky break that gave the Corps extra time to get the work done.

“We’re trying to play a little catch-up at this point,” he said. “We were a little nervous about (the onset of summer heat), but Mother Nature kind of threw us a bone.”

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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